Malaysia: 'Deeply disturbing' fake news bill must be scrapped

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Reacting to news that the Malaysian government has tabled a vaguely-defined bill in the Malaysian parliament outlawing “fake news” which could land those found guilty with a 10-year prison term, James Gomez, Amnesty International’s Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, said:

“This bill is an assault on freedom of expression.

“The vague and broad definition of ‘fake news’, combined with severe punishments and arbitrary arrest powers for police, shows that this is nothing but a blatant attempt to shield the government from peaceful criticism. This bill must be scrapped immediately.

“Malaysia has a long and troubling track record of using its legal books to silence dissent. It is no coincidence that this law has been tabled with general elections just around the corner. We are already seeing how the government is closing the space for public debate ahead of the polls.

“It is deeply disturbing that the Malaysian authorities are using the catch-all term ‘fake news’ as an excuse to crack down on critics.

“The bill combines the worst of the cheap propaganda coming from the West and the repressive laws and policies in the East. With both Singapore and the Philippines considering their own ‘fake news’ legislation, we call on all countries in the region to refrain from following this dangerous trend.”

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